Waste wood biomass regulations could ‘decimate’ UK panel board industry, says WRA

The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) is planning to challenge hazardous waste regulations it fears will damage the UK’s waste wood supply chain.

It has also rejected the latest proposals from the UK’s four environmental regulators regarding the Waste Wood Classification project and is asking them to provide more support for the industry.

The Environment Agency (EA) plans to extend the current Regulatory Position Statement (RPS 207), which permits mixed waste wood to continue to be used for panel board manufacturer and Chapter IV compliant biomass, until the end of July 2021. After that, the items highlighted as potentially hazardous from household and demolition sources would have to be identified, separated, and consigned, meaning fence posts and decking would have to be segregated at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and classified as hazardous.

The regulators have said this potentially hazardous material (fence posts and decking) can only go for Chapter IV compliant biomass from August 2021 onwards.

Andy Hill, chair of the WRA, said the move would ‘decimate’ the supply of waste wood feedstock for panel board manufacturers, which until now have been allowed to accept fence posts and decking as part of RPS 207.

The WRA has written to Malcolm Lythgo, head of waste regulation at the EA, stating its plans to challenge the regulations in the New Year. In the meantime, it has asked the EA and three other regulators – the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Natural Resources Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency – to support the industry and extend the current RPS for 18 months. This would enable material to continue to flow to both the panel board industry and Chapter IV biomass beyond summer 2021.

The WRA will continue with an approved sampling and testing programme, as part of the Waste Wood Classification project, to prove that any hazardous content in fence posts and decking is diminishing and does not pose a threat if processed by panel board industries and Chapter IV biomass.

“The amount of hazardous waste wood in this stream is extremely small and is diminishing,” said Hill. “From previous discussions we have had with the regulators, we anticipated they would continue to allow us to move household waste wood as non-hazardous for the relatively short period of time we would need to demonstrate that the items with potentially hazardous content are no longer in the household waste wood chain.

“Unfortunately, the current regulations do not allow them to do this at present. We understand that and we plant to challenge the specific issues with DEFRA, but in the meantime, we are asking for an 18-month extension to the RPS to allow us to continue with our sampling and testing work and to give us time to challenge the regulation without having a major impact on the panel board industry’s supply chain.”

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